Dr. Don ‘Mark’ Estes, an original whose spirit and heart were as brilliant as his mind, died July 10, after battling the indignities of ALS for seven years. He was 59. A proud Texas Aggie, Estes loved traveling the world as an internationally renowned veterinary immunology scientist and vaccine researcher, specializing over his long career in bioterrorism pathogens, HIV, tuberculosis, pediatrics, cancer and pathology. Estes held a soulful affection for South Africa, its authentic people, natural beauty and wines. He was an independent man of adventure and drive who loved few things as much as the thrill of African safari, and helping people develop their careers. He cherished his two sons, his 2-year-old granddaughter and the Houston Astros, which gave him one of the brightest joys ever by winning the the World Series. A native of Beaumont and an outlier in many ways, Estes was Texas-tough, stood 6’4” and for years outwitted ALS with his determined way and lasting smiles. He enjoyed a ‘bucket list’ with his wife, island hopping in the Caribbean, hot air ballooning over Russian River Valley in California wine country and welcoming sunsets in Destin, Florida. His ashes will be scattered in the Caribbean at Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. Estes, who was celebrated in the science world for novel ideas and insightful observations, received numerous distinguished awards throughout his career. Estes retired in 2013 after joining the University of Georgia in 2010, as the Fred C. Davison Distinguished University Chair in Veterinary Medicine. Prior, Estes held a post at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where he served as the director for the Program in Immunology, Institute for Human Infections and Immunity. He held earlier professorships at the University of Missouri and University of Texas San Antonio, and over his career served in various capacities at universities, research institutions and private sector around the world. He earned a Ph.D. in genetics from Texas A&M in 1988, an undergraduate degree in microbiology from Texas Tech in 1982. Gratitude is extended to the amazing ALS staff at the Methodist Hospital Neurological Institute, the famous Dr. Stanley Appel, the tireless Dr. Vanessa Holland, incredible staff at Respiratory Quality Services and Visiting Physicians. Special thanks go to Patrick Collera, who became like family while helping Estes’ wife care for him, and Christina Peck, a fantastic RN who also helped with Estes’ medical needs early on. Estes is preceded in death by his parents, Don M. Estes and Billie Jean Estes. He is survived by his wife, Paige Hewitt-Estes; sons, Travis Estes and Taylor Estes, and daughter-in-law Autumn Estes; mother-in law Tammy Estes; sister and brother-in-law Jean Anne Klewitz and Ken Klewitz, nephews Jayson Klewitz and Bradley Klewitz, and niece Katelyn Klewitz; sister Susan Jimenez, niece Micaela Jimenez and nephew Alex Jimenez; step-daughters Jordan Chavira and Hannah Cessnun; and granddaughter Sasha Chavira. The funeral service will be Sept. 22, at 4:30 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral, 1117 Texas Avenue, Houston, Texas, 77002, followed by a private gathering. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation honoring Mark to ALS Therapy Development Institute, www.als.net.
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